IT WAS finding out that Fiery Fred was dead that did it: started me thinking about the North of England and how shamefully and contemptuously treated by the media is my homeland of Pennines, Cheviots, Lakes and Dales.
Reminded me that ALL news, however parochial, is important to someone, somewhere and how hurtful it is to discover, too late, that a famous old familiar such as Freddie Trueman — a one-time national hero, no less — can just slip off the bowling roster without me noticing. True, I was in the US at the time and Americans are not hot on cricket. Nonetheless, finding out accidentally from a feature on Test Match Special some weeks later that one of my lifetime sporting idols had recently left the crease made me somewhat unreasonably angry.
"I don't know what's goin' off down there," the great England quick (and I mean fookin' quick!) bowler might have justifiably said, with a withering scowl towards Fleet Street. I wasn't in Britain at the time, but let me guess… NO ONE, I venture, splashed on the fact that one of the finest sporting Englishmen of the past pair of centuries had been skittled out cheaply by The Great Umpire.
NO ONE, I would hazard, ran up the black-bordered "FIERY FRED IS DEAD" screamers like the page-one placards that mourned the death of The Don — an even older national hardball hero — when he was finally caught in the slips Down Under.
There wouldn't have been anyone sufficiently senior in Manchester or Leeds to argue with the London editors of The Sun, Mirror, Mail or Express that the grumpy, forgotten Yorkshireman who ran out of puff was at least worth splashing in the Northern editions. The WHAT? Younger readers might care to consult Dennis Griffiths's excellent Encyclopedia of the British Press for details of an age when papers covered the whole of Britain. Shamefully, the first casualties of the economic watershed when papers ceased to be "a licence to print money" were the Northern editions, published and printed from Manchester. Ironically, perhaps predictably, popular newspaper circulations have been in freefall ever since.
Let me speak freely, as a committed and offended Northerner who started his career in the Northwest, learned his trade in the Northeast on The Journal, and whose newspaper education was polished in the Manchester offices of the Express and Mirror: would it not be deemed unthinkable NOT to have Scottish editors and editions of the nationals in Glasgow or Irish editors running editions destined for two countries with combined populations the size of Greater Manchester?
It falls to the regional stalwarts of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees/Granadaland and The North West Enquirer to cater to the needs of millions of used-to-be readers across a mighty swathe of England. Wonder why your sales are falling, you lunch-loving London tight-arses? 'Cos you're no longer serving ‘regional' readers with THEIR news, sport and opinions. More importantly, it isn't enough that regional media provides content for local consumption: the Southeast needs to know what the Midlands thinks, the Northwest deserves to hear what Geordies and Brummies are saying.
GOOD NEWS: this is the last you'll see of my rambling weekly diatribes. Much to the subs' discomfort (and the readers' annoyance) I overwrite lamentably and have thus been axed… BAD NEWS: I'll be back soon with a monthly column, three times longer!